Santos Women's Tour & helping women cycling

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The Santos Women's Tour in Adelaide was announced as a UCI event late last year. This is a massive step up for Australia with the points counting towards selection for Olympics and opportunity for riders to get noticed for selection later in the year.

There was a lot of pressure from the event organisers to have entries in early, before Cycling Australia had even announced a formal National Road Series calendar and the details to register teams for 2016. I had volunteered to assist Building Champions Women's Squad to be their team car for the 2 road races. My Subaru with the Thule racks on top and plenty of space in the back for hydration, I knew they would need the assistance out on the road. Plus I love driving behind the race and seeing it unfold :)

Stage 1 - A crazy 95kms looping around Mt Torrens was going to be hotly contested to set up the overall standings and initial jerseys. It was hot hot hot outside and the nervous energy was rolling off all the riders, staff and organisers. We had 2 casualties in the first lap with Margeaux Thompson and guest rider Emma Pane retiring from the race. The remainder of the team (Kate Finegan - guest, Serene Lee, Liza Rachetto - guest) were sitting in well until the attacks came from Orica and Wiggle. Slowly a split happened and the remainder of the team were in a large group that was chasing. Or so I thought until we were called up to behind the front peloton where Esther Borg was still in the game. Esther popped on the last lap to join the remainder of the team for the same time on the stage. Orica's Katrin Garfoot won the stage from a breakaway group of five riders.

A photo posted by Shane Miller (@gplama) on

Stage 2 - Was a 20km Criterium wedged firmly between the Undies Run and just before the People's Choice Classic. With such a short distance, it would take 25-30mins to finish up and a super fast pace on the flowing circuit. The whole course was lined with people and it was Lauretta Hanson that was the star of the show claiming more points from the intermediate sprints on top of the points from the first day and establishing a firm grip on the sprinters jersey and best young rider. There were 2 main crashes and Serene got caught up in one taking a lot of skin off in the process. She was keen to start the next stage, until the next day when she could not mount the bike. Annette Edmondson (Wiggle) won the sprint finish.

A video posted by Shane Miller (@gplama) on

Stage 3 - A scorching 100km loop around Lyndoch in the Barossa Valley. I did not envy the women on this day. Many withdrew with heat exhaustion, cramping, and still the pace was on for the peloton. This day claimed Kate from our group, Esther dropped off with two Wiggle riders halfway through and Liza stuck it out with true grit - dangling off the back of the peloton. They were in just in sight a lot of the way home, but didn't make contact in the end. Both were starters for the final stage. Lizzie Williams won this stage with repeated attacks from a group of seven riders.

Stage 4 - The final criterium! This one was timed for an hour plus 3 laps. The temp was so high I was munching on a cup of ice on the side lines. I don't recall any race incidents, but do remember Tiff Cromwell doing some ripping attacks to bring back break away groups and attack off the front in her own right. The BCWS women finished in the main bunch and were happy the tour finished up. Kimberly Wells(High5) won the bunch sprint.

Wells taking the final stage win. Photo: Kirsty Baxter.

Overall the team finished up as follows:
54.135Liza RACHETTO (BCS)+21:17
55.133Esther BORG (BCS)+23:09

Overall the Race finished up as follows:
1.25Katrin GARFOOT (OGE)6h52:36
2.3Shelley OLDS (CPC)+0
3.33Lauren KITCHEN (HPU)+0

The girls had a great setup at the Siccaso home base in Henly Beach. A big backyard, tents at each stage with food and drinks setup, mechanic to tune everything nicely, Siccaso car following the training rides, BBQ dinner post race and massage every day! Oh and of course brand new carbon clincher wheels to roll on... nice.

The lovely ladies from BCWS

As I take a step back from helping out one team, I've turned my focus to helping out more women in cycling and I've also had more guys ask me "How can I help women's cycling?".

Here is my list things anyone can do:

1. Follow women's cycling - NRS, VRS, or just those participating at club level.
2. Share and talk about what you like about the women's racing as a fan of it.
3. Offer to volunteer to help a team for a race. Teams are often looking to have extra hands on site as mechanics, swannies for the feed zone, just getting riders to/from races with logistics for interstate riders - esp if there are other races going on in parallel, you can still race and help out in some way.
4. Offer to volunteer to organisers for a women's race - lead car, spares car, registration, corner marshals for women's grades so that the show can go on!
5. Race organisers - ensuring that where there is a guys race, there is a womens race available for participation. (This is mandatory in Victoria for races sanctioned by Cycling Victoria, but not for other states/event organisers "Build it - they will come").

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